We conclude our four-part football series — something old, something new, something borrowed — with something blue. The regular season kicks off with three big matchups in our coverage area — and all three just happen to boast at least one team that’ll be clad in blue.
Fivay at River Ridge
When: Friday, 7:30
The line: River Ridge by 3
The history: The teams’ only previous meeting was a classic finish in last year’s season opener. River Ridge needed a 54-yard field goal from Phil Molina with 1:21 remaining to squeak by the Falcons for a 17-14 victory and give Fivay a loss to start its first all-varsity season.
X factor: Royal Knights coaches have raved about QB Josh Maisel, who has bulked up and improved his arm strength and accuracy. He showed that in a preseason blowout win over Gulf (8-of-12 passing, 179 yards, two TDs), but can he replicate that success against a better, faster defense?
Key matchup: River Ridge’s strength is its size, especially on the line. The Royal Knights have two 300-pound seniors (Hayden Krautner and Carlos Santamaria) alongside Gulf transfer Damion Hicks, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound tight end/defensive end. Fivay’s roster is smaller, with no players listed larger than senior Kelly Meus (6-1, 275), but the Falcons do have some speed. LB Brice Sesler and others will have to fly to the ball to break through River Ridge’s wall.
Fivay’s pick to click: Last year’s starter, QB Tyler Degen (1,388 yards, 59 percent completions, 16 TDs), was expected to switch to receiver this season. But with starter Eric Vitale out with a broken hand sustained last week, Degen will have to get back under center and regain his rhythm.
River Ridge’s pick to click: LB TJ Petrizzi tallied 67 tackles at Ridgewood last year before transferring to the Knights. The tenacious senior will have to contain Fivay running backs Davion Sutton and Bryan Poinsette, who rushed for a combined 171 yards in last week’s preseason loss to Sunlake.
Fun factoid: River Ridge earned a close win over Fivay last year but was 1-3 on the field in other games decided by seven or fewer points. The Falcons won their three other one-score contests, including a 48-42 comeback over Zephyrhills that vaulted them to their first playoff appearance.